Two weeks ago, India was up in arms about the proposed sale of up to eight Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets, worth $700 million, from US to Pakistan. The sale was already facing controversy at the domestic front, as the US Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Bob Corker had raised aspersions about Pakistan’s alleged relations with the Haqqani network, and claimed he would block any deal that would be subsidised by US taxpayers’ money. The Obama administration, however, characterised the sale as contributing to “US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia” as the fighter jets would enhance “Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations” and thus the sale was approved. Despite the sale being approved, the fact that loud voices were raised so publically against this sale by a number of US lawmakers was almost unprecedented ever since 2001’s US-led War on Terror began – to be sure, such concerns have been raised by US lawmakers before, but almost always in private. The airing of these contrarian opinions was thus indicative of a shift in criticality of Pakistan for the US; initially appeasing Pakistan was necessary for it provided the US logistical support to invade and subsequently remain in and fight in Afghanistan, but since the withdrawal of most troops the landscape has changed and a new chapter is beginning in this historically transactional relationship.
India’s angry reaction to the sale, where it summoned the US envoy to register their protest and claimed the sale would alter the regional balance of power, thus compounded matters further, given the context, coming as it did at a time when the US and India are starting a new chapter in their own historically fluctuating relationship. And now we see the results of this blossoming relationship, as India and US are closer than ever to signing an agreement to share military logistics, after 12 years of talks. The finalisation of this Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) would allow the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest. Moreover, according to a top US Admiral, the two countries are working on a further two agreements; one is called the CISMOA and is for secure communications when the militaries operate together, and the other concerns exchange of topographical, nautical, and aeronautical data. Already the US has offset Russia, India’s historically strongest ally, as the country’s biggest supplier of arms. Suffice it to say, the sale of eight paltry fighter jets pales in comparison to deals of this magnitude. But the world would hear nary a peep from Pakistan, in sharp contrast to India’s protestations. As US lifts its focus from Afghanistan and Iraq, the lure of India as an ally has become stronger than ever, especially with the rise of China. So the investment in India in order to counter China is the clear rationale behind US’s moves; however the negative implications of shoring up India’s military in a volatile region must be recognised by the US or another crisis will brew up in the near future. India and Pakistan have a tenuous balance of power; increasing India’s military strength would usher in a new destructive era of arms race that must be avoided at all costs. The LSA and deals like this would further provoke India’s other neighbours, especially China, and will be a cause of heightened tensions. Short term geopolitical aims of the US have already exacerbated problems in South Asia. More damage must be avoided.